Interview: Gene Watson Keeps His Career Going for His Fans
In February, Gene Watson released his 33rd studio album, Real. Country. Music. The record's 13 songs are exactly as advertised by the album's title: traditional country music, with plenty of fiddle and steel guitar; as Watson tells The Boot, "There’s a broad difference in what they’re calling country today and what this CD is."
"Not to hurt anybody’s feelings or insult anyone, but this is what made me who I am, and I couldn’t turn my back on it," Watson says. "Maybe what they’re doing is what made them who they are, but like I say, you don’t have to wonder what you’re going to get when you buy a Gene Watson CD."
It's been 27 years since Watson last had a Top 40 single (1989's "The Jukebox Played Along"), but the singer remains busy -- thanks, he says, to his loyal fans.
"It’s amazing even to me after the years that have gone by," Watson admits. "I’m probably more popular now than I was 20 years ago, and it’s because I’ve got the fans that I’ve started out with -- they’ve stuck with me; they’re extremely loyal -- and as we went along, we gathered up another generation, which was their kids ... and now we’re going into another generation that’s saying, ‘Wow, man, country music is good.’"
And at his concerts, Watson makes sure to let those fans know that he appreciates their faithfulness.
"Anybody can stand onstage and say, ‘I appreciate the fans,’" he muses. "But how many of them get offstage and go to the autograph table and sign autographs for however long it takes, an hour or two hours, and after that, stand up and take pictures with them and listen to their compliments and their not-so-compliments?"
Watson continues, "I try to make my fans feel as comfortable as they can, and I try to let them know that without them, I wouldn’t be there. No matter how good you sing, no matter how good your songs are, no matter what the case may be, if you don’t please them, you’re not going to last long."
Watson even looked to his fans to dictate what songs made the cut for Real. Country. Music.
"After every show, I always sign autographs and take pictures and talk to people and hear their feedback. Believe it or not, we try to pay attention to a lot of what they say," the singer explains. "Thanks to all of the requests for these particular songs, and the attention they've been getting, we decided, why don’t we give them to them? So I went back in the studio and re-recorded them."
Although Watson has maintained a busy touring schedule, he concedes there was a time when he considered quitting, and letting the younger generation take the reins.
"I thought about retiring one time, and that was probably when the new regime was moving in," Watson shares. "My type of country was starting to get played less and less and less ...
"And then I thought, 'I’ve got all these fans I’ve had throughout the years. It wouldn’t be right to just turn my back on them,'" he adds.